Demolition of historic lighthouse begins

The demolition of a historic lighthouse has begun, before it tumbles into the sea.

Orfordness lighthouse in Suffolk, built in 1792, was decommissioned in 2013, with the General Lighthouse Authority, Trinity House, predicting that the building would soon succumb to the waves.

Volunteers tried to protect the lighthouse but the North Sea now washes against its base and Orfordness Lighthouse Trust has decided that the time is right to take it down for safety reasons.

Demolition work is likely to take weeks, with as many artefacts as possible being saved.

Orfordness lighthouse
Waves lap the base of Orfordness lighthouse on the Suffolk coast (Joe Giddens/ PA)

This includes the lantern room, which volunteers hope to use as the basis of a memorial structure in future.

Nicholas Gold, from Orfordness Lighthouse Company and a trustee of Orfordness Lighthouse Trust, said: “It is obviously a sad day.

“But the sea now washes against the base of the building and the entrance porch has been undermined.

“This last winter a couple of adjacent buildings, including a beautiful Victorian oil store, were taken by the sea, and in recent months the lighthouse has become a hazard.

“We have been incredibly fortunate.  First, in the way that Trinity House allowed the lighthouse to be acquired and be looked after and visited by local people and others during its final years.

“Secondly, in having a fantastic group of local volunteers to make it happen and, thirdly, when it came to the demolition, in having the National Trust and a host of other agencies who were both co-operative and understanding during this difficult time.

“Regrettably, we had little choice as the owner had to remove the risk of imminent injury.

“However, by demolishing it carefully, rather than letting it tumble into the sea, it should be possible to recover the main artefacts and preserve them for future generations.”

Nick Collinson, National Trust general manager Suffolk and Essex coast, said: “Orfordness lighthouse has been an iconic landmark on this stretch of Suffolk’s coastline for centuries, and we are saddened to see it lost.

“Sitting on such a dynamic shingle spit, constantly changed by the sea, man’s presence here can often feel ephemeral.

“We are pleased to be working so closely with the Orfordness lighthouse team to ensure the building can be demolished safely and in a way that is appropriate to such a special place for wildlife and landscape.”

The Ness is closed to visitors during the pandemic as social distancing is not possible on the ferry crossing.